The Last Great Jewish Crank Intellectual

Danish-language readers everywhere: Have I got a skrift for you. New York, New York: Ti Vandringer I Ti Newyorkeres Fodspor by my friend Anne Me

tte Lundtofte. Anne Mette came to America, did a literature Ph.D. on Kierkegaard at NYU for kicks, then sat in on one of my courses in literary journalism. Which, it turns out, she’s a master of. New York, New York is all the rage in Copenhagen.

I just got my copy in the mail. I have one advantage over the average non-Danish reader: I know what it’s about. Anne Mette wandered the city in the company of some of its most interesting denizens, assigning writers, rappers, urban spelunkers, and ex-cons to guide her through their neighborhoods of choice. Paul Auster, surprisingly, takes her through Midtown; John Cale, more predictably, takes the Lower East Side; Fab Five Freddie explains what Tompkins Square Park was, and is; Joe Hargrave, framed for the murder of Malcolm X, leads her through Harlem. My favorite chapter, because I can read one sentence of it, is about the Upper West Side, where novelist and occasional Buddha killer Melvin Jules Bukiet serves as Anne Mette’s guide. I made that match, a fact noted by Anne Mette with the rare English-language quotation of me describing Melvin as “the last of the great crank Jewish novelist intellectuals.”

I also said, apparently, “Alligeval skal du nok forberede dig pa, det er dig, der kommer til at betale for kaffen.” Which, I think, translates to something like, “Melvin’s rich, but he’s also cheap, so bring plenty of cash.” Or maybe, “Melvin’s the meanest man in New York.” Either way, I know Melvin would be flattered.

Jeff Sharlet is a founding editor of Killing the Buddha, coauthor with Peter Manseau of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible (2004) and co-editor of Believer, Beware (2009). Sharlet is also the author of Sweet Heaven When I Die, (2011), C Street, (2010), and the New York Times bestseller The Family (2008).